Thanks to our friends at Wakefield Press, here is a sneak peek into Country, Kin and Culture – Survival of an Australian Aboriginal Community, written by Claire Smith.
A subtle and sophisticated social system
Indigenous Australians have always led sophisticated and culturally rich lives. The structure of Indigenous societies at contact was founded on the relationships between people, their kin and the land, determining every person’s relationship to the world around them – to other people; to plants and animals; and to the past, present and future. All of these relationships involve very specific rights, obligations and rules of behaviour and are an inherent part of the lives of people living in the Barunga–Wugularr region today.
During the creation era known by Europeans as the Dreaming or Dreamtime, ancestral beings travelled the land, creating its topographic features until at last ‘sitting down’ to become forever part of a specific place. Tracks established by ancestral beings during the Dreaming are woven through this landscape and formed the religious basis for the extended communication networks. Some of these Dreaming tracks span the entire Australian continent, one stretching from the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory to the South Australian coast. Other tracks were more locally based, connecting Dreaming sites within a particular region. The Dreaming is both ‘then’ and ‘now’. It encompasses events of the ancestral past but also exists in the present.
Within the Indigenous Australian cosmos, power flows from inherently powerful ancestral beings to the land, which is imbued with a potency given to it by the actions of people and ancestors in the past. In this way, every facet of the landscape becomes imbued with ancestral associations and ascribed with social identity. This power then flows through to living people, some of whom have the ability to call upon the force and authority inherent in both the land and ancestral beings.
The land is an important part of Indigenous people’s identities, closely tied to sophisticated social systems that structured relationships to country. In traditional society, an integral part of growing up is for people to learn about their relationships to country. As they move through their lands, they learn about the relationships between place and ancestors, in the process learning about themselves and their particular rights and responsibilities to land.
To continue reading, head into your local bookstore or visit Wakefield Press to secure your own copy!